Saturday, July 20, 2013

Japanese Rice Field Art

Photo: Reuters, July 20, 2013 

The above photo in The Malaysian Insider today caught my attention. It’s a natural canvas made entirely of rice paddy fields and it showed a Japanese traditional courtesan and actress Marilyn Monroe.

This rice plant art form is referred to as Tanbo art, a Japanese creation in which the locals plant various types and colors of rice and ‘grow’ a giant picture in rice paddy fields. You can find these works of art in Inakadate village, which is located in Minamitsugaru district of Aomori prefecture in northern Japan.

The tradition of rice field artwork began in 1993 as a way to revitalize the village. At first, it started with just rice planting tours to give visitors the opportunity to experience traditional rice farming done by hand as it has been since the Yayoi Period (300 BC to 300 AD). Following those first tours, they began making a mural in the rice fields of Mt Iwaki (岩木山), one of Tohoku’s most beautiful mountains. To do this they used three kinds of rice; a purple rice called murasakiine (紫稲), a yellow rice called kiine (黄稲) and Tsugaru Roman (つがるロマン), a local Aomori variety.

Then in 2002, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the tours and the tanbo (rice field) art, the villagers created an original design of Iwaki-san and the moon, which won the Impact Award from NHK, landing the art in newspapers and on TV. The following year, they tried more complicated designs, including a mural of the Mona Lisa. People began coming from all over Japan to see these unusual creations, which became known simply as Tanbo Art (田んぼアート).

In 2004, they took their art form to another level, using designs that incorporated a perspective effect, making them more beautiful and three-dimensional when seen from viewing observatories. Inakadate attracted 30,000 visitors that year and 130,000 the following summer.

In 2006, they added two new varieties of red rice in their design of the God of Wind and Thunder, and the next year 240,000 people came to see a design made after the famous artist Katsushika Hakusai.

During the following two years, they added two new kinds of rice, yukiasobi (ゆきあそび) which has white leaves, and the red-tipped iwaiakane (祝い茜). They used five crops for their 2010 designs and chose seven varieties in 2011.

And last year, 1,200 volunteers methodically planted the seedlings using, for the first time, nine kinds of rice. It is said that the best time for viewing the beautiful creations is August-September.

How to get there? The rice-farming village of Inakadate is about 600 miles north of Tokyo and the fastest way to get there is to fly from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Aomori (one hour and 15 minutes), then take a bus to Hirosaki (60 minutes). From Hirosaki, take the Kōnan Tetsudo Line to Inakadate Station (24 minutes). If you rent a car from the airport, it is about a 40-minute drive to Inakadate. If you prefer not to fly, get on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori (three hours, 37 minutes), then take the Ōu Line to Hirosaki (36 minutes) and then on to Inakadate Station.

FYI, there are two Tambo Art fields, and both are about a five-minute taxi ride from Inakadate Station. The first field is on the east side of Inakadate City Hall, and the second field is located at the “Michi no Eki” at Inakadate Yayoi no Sato.

Last Thursday, I checked the Toastmasters International website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Sunway University Toastmasters Club in their very first year of inception is a President’s Distinguished Club for the 2012-2013 term! 

This means that we have earned 9 points out of 10 in the Distinguished Club Program. 

Below, please check out a photo of the five Toastmasters who have done the club proud by contributing 5 (out of 6) Communication and Leadership points. They are (L-R) Sharif Ahmed, Thinesh Naidu, Kenneth Ho, Victor Ong and Dr Nagiah Ramasamy.

They are role models for other club members who should be inspired to follow their example because for a newly-established club, to qualify for this recognition, it is indeed a remarkable achievement!

Let’s see if we can repeat this excellent performance in the 2013-2014 term!

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